Where a youth has admitted an offence that is minor but more than trivial, the investigating police officer may refer it to a formal police caution. Formal cautions are administered by a senior police officer or a special Youth Police Officer at a meeting conducted at a police station with the youth and his or her guardians present [see Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) s 8].
If a formal caution is to be administered to the youth the police officer must explain to the youth the nature of the caution and the fact that an official record is kept of an formal caution. The offence then counts as prior offending should the youth re-offend and come before the Youth Court at a later date. However, it does not count in adult proceedings (after the youth turns 18 years) [see s 58].
A youth may be required to undertake to do any or all of the following:
- pay compensation to the victim of the offence;
- carry out up to 75 hours (ten days) community service work;
- to apologise to the victim (often in writing) or take any other appropriate action such as performing unpaid work for the victim.
Undertakings must be in writing and signed by the youth in the presence of a guardian or nominated adult. If the undertaking is not completed or the youth refuses to sign, the matter will be referred to a family conference or the Youth Court. Undertakings may have a maximum duration of three months and if successfully completed the youth cannot be prosecuted for the offence.
The police officer must ask the victim whether he or she wishes to know the identity of the youth and the subsequent outcome of the matter. Police are required to give that information if requested by the victim.
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